It’s the start of a new year and you know what that means…resolution time!
Yes, it’s that time of year when we take a moment to reflect on the past, assess where we are now and then mercilessly judge ourselves for not being good enough!
While we don’t think it’s a great idea to set yourself up for failure with unachievable resolutions, there is something to be said for using the turn of the year to do a little light goal setting.
If you’re not satisfied with where your career is heading, don’t beat yourself up - set yourself some realistic goals and take practical steps to make them happen.
Here are some of our career-boosting ideas to help you get started.
Fill in your qualification gaps
If you’re missing any high school level qualifications like GCSEs or A Levels, you might want to make 2019 the year that you resit these.
Having gaps in your qualifications can hold you back from taking certain paths in your career - especially if you’re missing core subjects like Maths and English. Many professions require you to have at least a GCSE pass in these subjects, so if you’re considering changing careers you might want to check what qualifications you need.
The great thing is that getting these qualifications doesn’t mean you have to massively disrupt your life as the can be studied around your work and family commitments.
Many colleges offer a night-school option for those who can’t commit to classes during the day, but if you want even more flexibility you might want to consider studying online.
Online GCSE and A Level courses are really flexible as you’re not tied to a set timetable or class schedule. They often tend to be more affordable too and can come with access to a personal tutor, so you can get support that’s tailored to your needs.
Take a course that’s related to your current or dream job
You might consider yourself to be a knowledgeable and capable professional (which you most certainly are), but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from some extra training to enhance your current skill set.
You could opt for a short course that will refresh your existing knowledge and plug any gaps. Or if you’re thinking about developing your career over a longer period, you might want to consider more comprehensive professional qualifications.
Professional qualifications give you practical skills that you can not only apply to your current role but which you can use to help you advance to the next level - in some professions they’re valued more highly than university degrees.
Most awarding bodies offer a range of qualifications, so whether you’re just starting out or have many years’ experience under your belt you should be able to find a level that suits you.
The best part is you wouldn’t even have to take any time off work to study as most qualifications can be taught entirely online. This means you get to choose how, when and where you study, making it much easier to fit into your schedule.
Ask your manager to fund your training
Asking your employer to fund your training is a great solution if you’ve found your dream course but can’t afford the cost of it on your own.
You’ll see more than just a financial benefit too as if your employer invests in your professional development you’re likely to feel valued - making you more satisfied in your role.
This creates a knock-on effect that benefits your employer as when we feel happier at work we tend to perform better and are less likely to go looking for another job.
In fact, LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.
If you feel a bit unsure of asking your manager to splash some cash on you, check out our guide on how to request training - it even comes with letter templates!
Attend an exhibition or conference
Exhibitions and conferences are a great way to keep up with the latest developments in your field.
You’ll get to experience keynote speeches from industry thought leaders, mingle with like-minded professionals and meet interesting vendors and suppliers.
Attending these events is also an excellent way to sneak in some extra professional learning as many will offer workshops and seminars as part of their programme.
It’s often a more relaxed setting to learn in than official training courses. This sets people at ease and makes them more comfortable sharing their own experiences, practices or concerns. You even might pick up valuable tricks of your trade from the anecdotes of your fellow attendees.
Interacting with your professional peers is an important part of your career development and these events can provide the perfect setting to meet new people. Which brings us to…
Grow your network
Having a broad professional network is a great asset to revamping your career. The people in your network can introduce you to a wide range of new opportunities to develop your skills and progress up the career ladder.
Knowing the right people could land you a shot at new job opportunities, keep you in the loop with the latest industry trends and help you meet potential mentors, partners and clients.
These days professional networking has expanded far beyond dedicated networking events and can even be done online.
The obvious venue for this is LinkedIn as that’s exactly what it was designed for and it’s a great tool, but it’s not the only place to build your network online. Other social networks like Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly popular for professionals to chat and share their experiences on.
How useful these other networks are to you will depend on the field you work in. For example, Facebook groups have become an increasingly popular hangout for teachers to share their practice. Whilst over on Twitter professionals in HR and Learning and Development can join in with live chats like HR Hour and L&D Connect.
There’s still something to be said for face-to-face events as striking up a connection with someone in person can leave a more lasting effect than chatting online. Sites like Meetup are a good way to search for your local networking groups and find out the details of upcoming events.
Other handy ways to grow your network is to keep in touch with alumni from your university or college and to stay in contact with your former employers and colleagues - just because you no longer work there doesn’t mean they won’t be able to help you out.
Face-to-face networking can be nerve-wracking so here are a few tips to keep you on the right track:
- Don’t go overboard on the questions - it shouldn’t feel like a job interview
- Share what makes you interesting as well as asking questions
- Find ways to be helpful like recommending a relevant book or event
- Arrive early if you’re more comfortable with a small group
- Have a few icebreaker questions prepared to get things started
Join a professional body
If your industry has a professional body or organisation, registering as a member could prove a very effective way to give your career a boost.
Most professional bodies are responsible for setting professional standards within their industry, so membership will usually carry a degree of professional credibility. This can be important if you’re looking to move into a new job this year as a proven commitment to high standards could give you the edge over other candidates.
Membership of these types of organisations usually comes with a whole host of benefits that are designed to help you advance your career. These can include:
- Access to resources such as industry research and publications
- Local groups or branches to network with and seek advice
- Conferences and events
- Professional development opportunities
- The chance to influence the future of your profession
With so many career-boosting benefits squeezed into one package, membership of a professional body can save you a lot of time on your quest to get ahead - we’d say it’s well worth the annual subscription fee.
Sharpen up your CV and social media
Even if you’re not planning on applying for new roles any time soon, it’s still a good time to go through your CV and give it a new year makeover. Use this as a chance to reflect on your skills and work experience and think about what’s relevant to the kind of jobs you want in the future.
Make sure you remove anything that’s not adding value and add in any new experience or skills that you’ve developed since you last updated it. Whilst you’re doing this you should look for any skills or qualifications gaps and come up with a plan to fill them.
You should also cast an eye over your social media profiles and think about how they would come across to your current or potential employer. It’s become more common for employers to look at candidate’s profiles and they won’t just be having a peek at your LinkedIn so remember to check the rest.
If there’s anything on there you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s time to have a look at your privacy settings. Be mindful of the posts your friends have tagged you in too as they might have different settings to you, so these might still be visible to the general public.
It’s not just employers you should be mindful of. If you’re planning on using social media to network, you’ll have to consider how your profile comes across to anyone you interact with. A solution to separating your professional online presence from your personal one could be to have two individual profiles. This might not be possible for all social networks, but it is certainly workable on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
We hope these ideas get you off to a good start and that 2019 brings you the right opportunities to take your career in an exciting, new direction - Happy New Year!